In ancient times in the thrice-ninth kingdom there lived a tsar and his wife. They had no children. Once the tsar went to the outlandish kingdom to settle state affairs. In his absence the tsaritsa gave birth to a son who was named Ivan Tsarevich. The tsar didn't know anything about his son's birth.
Time passed and the tsar went back to his kingdom. On the way he decided to rest a little. It was very hot that day, the sun was shinning brightly, scorching the grass. The tsar was gasping for a drink. He looked round and saw a small lake not far from him. Dismounting from his steed, the tsar lay down on his belly and began to gulp down cold fresh water. Suddenly the horrible Sea King caught hold of his beard.
"Please, release me!" begged the tsar for mercy.
"I am not going to set you free! How have you dared to drink water from this lake without my permission?"
"Please, release me!" the tsar continued to implore the Sea King. "I will give you anything you wish!"
"Give me something that you have never seen in your house!
The tsar thought: "I know everything in my house. Nothing wrong will happen if I agree!" So, he gave his consent and the Sea King left hold of his beard. Having returned to his kingdom, the tsar learnt that in his absence the tsaritsa had given birth to a child, and he began to cry bitterly. He remembered the words of the Sea King and understood at once that he will have to part with his son.
When Ivan Tsarevich was eighteen years old, the tsar decided to keep his promise. He led his son to the lake in the depths of which the horrible Sea King was living and left him there alone, saying these words: "I've lost here my signet-ring. Please, find it!"
Ivan Tsarevich went along the shore, looking for the signet-ring. Suddenly, he met an old woman. "Where are you going?" she asked the lad.
"Leave me alone, old witch!" replied Ivan Tsarevich.
Then he thought: "Why have I sworn at this woman. Old people are wise. She may give me a piece of good advice."
"Grandmother, please, come back! Excuse me! I've offended you because I am very displeased. My father has ordered me to find his signet-ring but I cant find it," addressed Ivan Tsarevich to the old woman.
"Don't bother trying to find the signet-ring. You can't find it here. You are here for another reason!" replied the old woman. "Many years ago your father promised that he would fulfill any wish of the Sea King in exchange for his freedom. By deception the Sea King forced your father to promise that he would let the Sea King take your prisoner. Soon the Sea King will appear from the lake and drag you off into his underwater kingdom." Ivan Tsarevich burst into tears.
"Calm down! Don't cry so bitterly! I will help you!" said the old woman. "Please, listen to me attentively. Hide yourself behind that big currant bush and wait a little. Soon thirteen wonderful white doves will fly down on the banks of the lake. They will strike themselves against the ground and turn into beautiful young maidens. The maidens will take off their gowns and began to bath in the lake. Meanwhile you should steal the gown of the thirteenth maiden. But remember, don't return the maiden her gown till she will give you her ring. If you don't manage to fulfill all my instructions you will die in the underwater kingdom!"
Ivan Tsarevich thanked the old woman, hid himself behind the big currant bush and began to wait. Suddenly the thirteen white doves flew down on the banks of the lake. The birds struck the ground and turned into beautiful maidens. Ivan had never seen so beautiful maidens; the youngest of them, Vasilisa the Wise, was the most beautiful one. The maidens took off their gowns and began bathing in the lake. They were singing songs, laughing, splashing and playing on the water.
Ivan couldn't take his eyes off the beautiful maidens for a long time, but then he remembered the old woman's instructions and, sneaking up to the lake, he managed to take the gown of the youngest maiden. The maidens went ashore and discovered that the gown of their youngest sister disappeared. They began looking for the gown but everything was in vain, they couldn't find it.
"Dear sisters, stop searching for my gown. Fly home! I've lost my gown through my own fault," said Vasilisa the Wise at last.
The maidens struck the ground, turned into the white doves and flew away. Vasilisa the Wise looked round and said, "The man who has taken my gown, please, appear! Don't be afraid of me! If you are an old man you will be my father. If you are a middle-aged man you will be my brother. If you are a person of the same age you will be my friend."
As soon as she said these words Ivan Tsarevich appeared. Vasilisa gave him her ring and asked, "Ivan Tsarevich, why haven't you come a bit earlier? My father, the Sea King is angry with you! Look! This is the road to the underwater kingdom. Go along this road! Let's meet in the underwater kingdom!"
Saying these words, Vasilisa the Wise struck the ground, turned into the white dove and flew away. Ivan Tsarevich went along the road that led to the underwater kingdom and in three days he got there. He was very surprised when he discovered that in the underwater kingdom everything was alike his native kingdom: the sun was shining brightly, throwing light on green fields and meadows.
As soon as Ivan came into the palace, the Sea King began to shout at him, "Why haven't you come here earlier? You must redeem your fault. There is a field not far from the palace. The field is covered with ditches, gullies and sharp stones. You must level the field and sow rye. In the morning the field must be leveled and covered with ripe, goldish rye. If you don't execute my order I will kill you."
Ivan left the palace and went to the field, melting into tears. Vasilisa the Wise looked through the window and saw Ivan Tsarevich.
"Hello, Ivan, why are you crying so bitterly?" she asked.
"The Sea King has ordered me to level the field and sow rye during the night, and what is more, in the morning goldish rye must be growing in the field," replied Ivan and went on crying.
"Don't cry! It isn't a trouble, the real trouble will happen in the future. Go to sleep. Mornings are wiser than evenings."
While Ivan went to sleep, Vasilisa the Wise entered the porch and cried loudly, "My faithful servant, appear! Level the field covered with ditches, gullies and sharp stones. Sow rye and, remember, that in the morning rye must come up and ripen."
Ivan woke up early the next morning. Having looked through the window, he saw the level field covered with ripe, goldish rye. Being very pleased, he went to the tsar with his report.
"Well," said the Sea King, "thank you for your good work. Now you must fulfill another task. I have three hundred wheat haystacks; each haystack contains three hundred of haycocks. You must thrash grain, but remember that all haystacks must be intact. Everything must be ready tomorrow in the morning!"
"Yes, your Majesty!" replied Ivan Tsarevich and went away, crying bitterly.
Vasilisa the Wise saw him and asked, "Ivan Tsarevich, why are you so sad?"
"The Sea King has ordered me to thrash wheat grain during a night. Moreover, I must leave all haystacks intact. I wont be able to fulfill this order."
"It isn't a trouble, the real trouble will happen in the future. Go to sleep. Mornings are wiser than evenings," Vasilisa the Wise calmed Ivan Tsarevich.
Ivan went to sleep and Vasilisa the Wise went to the porch and cried in a loud voice, "My faithful servants, ants and beetles! Appear before me! Extract wheat grain from the haystacks of my father!"
In the morning the Sea King called Ivan and asked him, "Have you carried out my order?"
"Yes, your Majesty!" replied Ivan. They went to the threshing-floor and found that all haystacks were safe and sound, whereas the granaries were full.
"Thank you," said the Sea King. "I have one last task for you. Build me a church out of wax. Tomorrow morning the church must be built."
Ivan burst into tears and went away. Vasilisa the Wise saw him and asked why he was crying so bitterly.
"The Sea King has ordered me to build the church out of wax. I will never be able to carry out this task," replied Ivan.
"It isn't a trouble, the real trouble will happen in the future. Go to sleep. Mornings are wiser than evenings," said Vasilisa the Wise.
Ivan Tsarevich went to sleep while Vasilisa the Wise went to the porch and cried in a loud voice, "My faithful servants, hard-working bees, appear before me! Build me the church out of wax. The church must be build tomorrow morning."
In the morning Ivan looked through the window and saw the church built out of wax situated not far from the palace. Then he went to the Sea King with report. "Thank you, Ivan Tsarevich!" said the Sea King. "I have many servants but none of them can please me as you. Be my heir! Choose any of my thirteen daughters and marry her!"
Ivan Tsarevich chose Vasilisa the Wise and they married the same day. Some time passed and Ivan began to languish for his parents and native land. Vasilisa noticed his melancholy and asked, "Ivan Tsarevich, why are you so sad?"
"My dear Vasilisa the Wise! I want to see my father and mother. I want to return to Holy Russia."
"It is a serious matter for us. If we try to escape from the underwater kingdom, my father's servants will pursue us. The Sea King will be very angry with us, and if his servants catch us, we will be killed! We must resort to cunning!" said Vasilisa the Wise and spat in three corners.
Then they locked the door and ran away. The next day the Sea King's messengers came to Vasilisa's chamber. They began to knock at the door, trying to awake the newly-weds. "Wake up, the Sea King want to see you!" they shouted.
"It's very early, we want to sleep! Come later!" said the first saliva. The messengers went away.
In an hour they came back and began knocking at the door. "It's time to wake up! It's time to wake up!" they cried.
"Wait a little! We will soon get up!" replied the second saliva.
The messengers went away. Soon they returned and began to awake the newly-weds for the third time. "We will come out in a minute!" exclaimed the third saliva.
The messengers waited a little and began to knock again. At last they broke open a door and came in. The chamber was empty. Then the messengers reported to the Sea King that his daughter and Ivan Tsarevich had run away. The Sea King got angry and ordered that they be caught. Meanwhile Ivan Tsarevich and Vasilisa the Wise were far away. They were riding swift steeds without stopping.
"Ivan Tsarevich, fall on the ground and listen. If you hear the clatter of horses' hoofs we must ride faster. The Sea King's servants are pursuing us," suddenly said Vasilisa the Wise.
Ivan fell on the ground and began to listen. "I hear the thud and voices of people!" he soon exclaimed.
"It's my father's servants!" said Vasilisa and turned their steeds into a meadow, Ivan Tsarevich into an old shepherd, and then she turned herself into a sheep.
In some minutes the Sea King's servants arrived at a gallop. "Grandfather, have you seen a lad with a maiden?" they asked.
"No, I haven't seen anybody." replied Ivan Tsarevich.
The servants galloped back to the palace. "Your Majesty, we tried to catch your daughter and Ivan Tsarevich but we couldn't find them. We've seen only the shepherd and his sheep," they said to the Sea King.
"Why didn't you hold them? Vasilisa turned herself into the sheep and Ivan into the shepherd. Return to the place where you saw them and catch them!" exclaimed the Sea King angrily.
Meanwhile Ivan Tsarevich and Vasilisa the Wise had time to run away far from the palace. "Ivan Tsarevich, fall on the ground and listen!" said Vasilisa.
Ivan fell on the ground and began to listen. "I hear the thud and voices of people!" he exclaimed a bit later.
"My father's servants again began to pursue us!" said Vasilisa and turned their steeds into trees, Ivan Tsarevich into a priest, and then she turned herself into a church.
Soon the Sea King's servants appeared. "Have you seen a lad and a maiden passing by your church?" they asked.
"No, I haven't seen anybody," replied Ivan Tsarevich. There was nothing to do and the servants turned back to the palace.
"Your Majesty, we couldn't find your daughter and Ivan Tsarevich. We've seen only a priest and a church!" they said to the Sea King.
"Why didn't you break down the church? Why didn't you hold the priest? Don't you know that my daughter is a sorceress?! She turned herself into the church and Ivan Tsarevich into the priest!" exclaimed the Sea King and decided to catch the fugitives by himself.
By that time Vasilisa the Wise and Ivan Tsarevich were about to overstep the boundaries of the underwater kingdom. "Ivan Tsarevich, fall on the ground and listen! May be the Sea King's servants again began to pursue us!" said Vasilisa.
Ivan fell on the ground and began to listen. "I hear the thud and voices of people more than ever!" he soon said.
"We must hurry up! The Sea King himself is pursuing us!" exclaimed Vasilisa the Wise and turned their steeds into a lake, Ivan Tsarevich into a drake and then she turned herself into a duck.
Some time later the Sea King arrived at a gallop to the lake. He understood at once who were the drake and the duck. Then he struck the ground and turned into an eagle. The eagle tried to kill the drake and the duck but couldn't do it. As soon as the eagle was about to peck the drake or the duck, they had time to dive under the water. So, however hard the eagle tried to peck the drake and the duck, he couldn't manage to do it. There was no other way out for the Sea King than to gallop back to his palace. Vasilisa the Wise and Ivan Tsarevich waited a little and then successfully got to the thrice-ninth kingdom.
"Wait for me for some minutes in this grove. I will go to my father and mother to announce to them that I have returned," offered Ivan.
"You will forget about me!" said Vasilisa the Wise.
"What are you speaking about?! I will never forget you!"
"I know that youll forget me! Please, remember me when two white doves will begin to hit against your window!"
So, Ivan Tsarevich came to the palace. His parents saw him and began to embrace and kiss him. Ivan was so glad to see his parents and friends again that he soon forgot Vasilisa the Wise. Time passed and Ivan decided to marry the princess of the neighboring kingdom.
Meanwhile Vasilisa went to the town and found there the job of a cook. One day she modeled two doves out of pastry and put them into the stove. Then she opened the window and suddenly the doves flew out of the stove. The birds flew straight to the palace and began to hit against the windows. The tsar's servants tried to drive them away but couldn't do it. Ivan Tsarevich looked at the doves and remembered Vasilisa the Wise. He ordered the servants to find her and lead her to the palace. Soon the servants found her and brought her to the palace. Ivan Tsarevich kissed and embraced his wife. Since that time Ivan and Vasilisa never parted with each other and lived happily ever after.